LABONG LODGE: FROM THE COLONIAL ERA TO THE PRESENT
By: VW Ignacio V. Illenberger, PGH
Updated by: WB Ali C. Espina, PM
3 September 2016
Labong as a Masonic entity has 3 incarnations: when it was 1st a “trianggulo” or Masonic Triangle founded by Lorenzo Tuason (Kamuning) in Navotas; when it 1st became a regular lodge under the Gran Oriente Español in 1892 (with Pedro Camus as Venerable Master); & when it was chartered on 23 January 1921 under the Grand Lodge of The Philippine Islands.
Labong is a Tagalog word meaning “bamboo shoot”. The name of the town where the lodge was originally located, Malabon in then Rizal province, is derived from “malabong” meaning a place where shoots of young bamboo abound.
Logia Labong Nº 153
On 6 May 1892 the 4 members of the Triangle Labong who were working in the city of Malabon (Rizal) received authorization from the Mother Lodge Nilad Nº 144 of Manila to conduct an extraordinary meeting two days later, 8 May, at 6:30 p.m. It was in this reunion that the members of the Triangle and a commission of four delegates by the Mother Lodge, were present. The objective of the meeting was to establish a symbolic lodge dependent of Nilad requesting for the constitutive letter from the Gran Oriente Español. The commission, after encouraging work favoring the formation of those present, and taking oath of adhesion to Spanish obediency, signed or approved the positional elections that were divided as follows:
Pedro Camus – Venerable Master & Treasurer
Tomas Tuason – 1st Vigilant & Orator
Jose Katiniso – 2nd Vigilant & Guard of The Temple
Elias Marich – Secretary
At the same meeting were initiated: Alejo Lazaro (Jolo), Pedro Lazaro (Tansa) and Rafael Viario (Josue),
The members totaling 7, the lodge thus was perfectly formed. The Constitutive Act of Logia Labong was registered in the Secretariat of Nilad on 30 May 1892, but was not admitted in the federation of the GOE until the 15th of July, it was only then that it was granted the number 153.
Logia Labong Nº 153 started out its labor the same month of May 1892, with fixed regular sessions every Sunday. In May there were 4 assemblies and 5 more persons were initiated; in June, 4 reunions were registered and 6 more initiations besides the extraordinary sessions held to commemorate St. John The Baptist or(/during) summer. The banquet had to be held in a secluded place because some members were being watched.
For this reason, in July there were only 2 meetings. On the 6th of the same month H:. Dimas - Alang, was deported, that is to say Jose Rizal, and the homes of several Masons within the area were searched (remember that we are in the province of Rizal) These circumstances sowed such confusion that, to avoid arrests, detentions and more deportations, it was decided to burn the books and records of the treasury of the lodge. Days later, when the atmosphere had calmed down, they were remade as accurately as possible. Despite the problems, in this month of July, 2 dependent Triangles of Labong were founded: Sion, in the district of Concepcion and Hapitan (or Kapitan) in Dampalit.
Under normal circumstances, the origin of these triangles we could see that desire to widen the field of Masonic work but, at this time, due to political circumstances, it would be more accurate to think that the lodge decided to go to work by triangulation, that is to say that during those frequent reunions which was composed of not more than 3 persons to avoid suspicion, and extraordinary decisions and actions were taken.
In August, 6 sessions were celebrated and the restoration and refurbishment of the temple were done which was to be ready for the 24th, the date on which Nilad gave the charter to Labong.
September and October were assumed to be months were works were stopped, as a consequence of new deportations and requisitions. So only 2 sessions, 1 in each month with an initiation in September and October were accounted.
In one of the 5 meetings in November, it was decided to immortalize in a marble headstone, the names of the brothers Jose A. Ramos (Socorro), 24th degree, and Pedro Serrano Laktaw (Panday Pira), 24th degree, for services rendered to Logia Labong in particular and Filipino Masonry in general.
December 27 saw the election of dignitaries and officers who were to govern the fate of the atelier during 1893, at the same time a solstice banquet was celebrated or that of St John the Evangelist. With both celebrations it officially concluded the work of the lodge in 1892.
Up to this point, the internal life of the Labong was described. Let us take a look at the development works in the profane field or said in another way, their external life. In this sense, their hard work was concentrated on fundraising for the different concepts, but all had the same goal, to help someone. According to the treasury of the lodge, during the 6-month period between the foundation of the lodge and December of 1892, 80 pesos was disbursed to aid Rizal in his deportation: 25 was to aid Pedro Serrano, (Panday Pira), who was going through a delicate moment; another undetermined amount was to assist the widow of Francisco Solvedilla (Rousseau), etc.
In addition, and as a sign of profound rejection that existed within Freemasonry to the religious orders, they claim to have tried that in the village fiesta, they did not collect great quantities in order to celebrate the pompous religious festivals.
In the year 1893, there were no clear nor complete results with regards to documentations. On the 31st of January, Labong sent to Logia Progreso de Farnés Nº 64, of Gerona, the logical box (or chart or frame) as a sign of affection, but this does not give us sufficient data on the members of the atelier, but only with the symbolical names, in such that we do not know the identity of the members. We know that they maintained friendship or trusts with 114 lodges of the GOE all over the Spanish territory and overseas. However, the only one that can be identified is Victor Gallego, friendship trustee of the Logia Ibérica Nº 7, from Madrid. These gaps indicate that something had changed within the island. Proof of which is the address of Logia Labong Nº 153 during the year 1893, wherein they transferred to Nº 14 Staunton Street in Hong Kong and the ordinary sessions were celebrated on Saturdays at 4:30pm.
On April 1893, problems started with the other ateliers. On the 10th day, Labong received a letter from Logia Walana Nº 158 in which were invited the venerables, the vigilants and a delegate of the lodge to a reunion on the 16th at 5:00pm for the purpose of constituting a Regional Grand Lodge. Pedro Camus, the venerable of Labong, believed that the reunion of Walana could be anti-constitutional, in which he prepared an extraordinary reunion in which the members of the atelier would be exposed. Effectively, the group considered the act contrary to the regulations and elevated the complaint to the Mother Lodge Nilad.
From 1894 up until 1919, resulting each or all from the schism of lodges against Nilad & the Grand Regional Council, the impending Philippine Revolution & its change of address, Labong’s records were lost until it was reorganized in 1920.
Labong Lodge Nº 59
Labong Lodge No. 59 was reorganized by 14 Master Masons during a meeting held on 20 May 1920. After securing the favorable recommendation of Dalisay Lodge, they petitioned for a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of The Philippine Islands. On 12 June 1920, Grand Master Rafael Palma granted the requested dispensation that included the appointment of Jose M. Raymundo (Isabela Lodge No. 60) as the Dispensation Master, Pedro Siochi (Sinukuan Lodge No. 16) as Senior Warden and Angel Lazaro (Pintong Bato Lodge No. 51) as Junior Warden; Treasurer: Mateo Guerrero (Walana Lodge No. 13), Secretary: Irineo C. de Vega (Pintong Bato Lodge No. 51). During the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge held on January 1921, Labong Lodge was granted a charter upon favorable recommendation of the Committee on Charters. The following month on 26 February 1920, Grand Master Edwin Elser with the assistance of MW Rafael Palma, RW Frederic Stevens and the other Masonic dignitaries, constituted Labong Lodge No. 59 and installed its officers in the public school building of Malabon. The ceremonies were conducted in public form for the estimated 400 guests.
Before the Second World War, Labong Lodge, although not spectacular in existence, grew steadily. Meetings were held in the various Malabon residences of members such as those of Bros. Pedro Siochi and Andres Pascual in San Bartolome, Malabon and of Angel Lazaro’s in Concepcion. Unspectacular notwithstanding, the lodge attracted to its fold a number of distinguished citizens from Navotas, Malabon and other neighboring towns. Among the notables were Senator Melcio Arranz, Bishop Irineo de Vega, Bishop Pablo Tablante, Mayor Sinforoso Pascual, Mayor Emeterio de Jesus, Judge Genaro Tan Torres, Judge Guillermo Romero, Igmedio Buenaventura, Amado Jacinto, Clemente Banzon, Bernardo Ignacio, Ismael Lapuz, Businessman Rufino Policarpio, Vicente Quijano, Felimon Santiago, Judge Angel Lazaro, Provincial Board Member Candido Perez, Macario Sevalia, and Elpidio Laiz.
Labong Lodge valiantly tried to maintain itself in Malabon, but the need to survive forced it to transfer its meeting place to the Plaridel Masonic Temple. In January 1974, in response to the appeal of the Grand Master Ruperto Demonteverde that some lodges transfer their meeting to the suburbs, Labong Lodge moved its meetings to the old Victory Motors Building in Rizal Avenue Extension, Caloocan City. This venue was made available to the lodge for free by Worshipful Brother Salvador Diaz, who was a senior executive of the company that owned the building. In October 1976, however, the place was sold and so the lodge had to return to the Plaridel Masonic Temple, San Marcelino Street, Ermita, Manila where its meetings are still held to this day.
Andres Bonifacio Lodge No. 199’s formation was recommended by Labong Lodge No. 59. Andres Bonifacio Lodge was constituted as a regular lodge by MW John O. Wallace on 22 June 1974. Labong brethren who were among its officers: VW Jose B. Perez (PM 1953, PDDGM) as Worshipful Master; & WB Salvador C. Diaz (PM 1966) as Junior Warden, respectively.
As far as written history is concerned; with the incarnations of the lodge, Philippine Freemasonry’s intertwined history during the Colonial Years, the Revolution & the American regime, and the brethren’s love & pride that there are members who were heroes or national personalities, Labong mostly is honored & blessed to have “ordinary” & yet distinguished citizens willing to do extraordinary labor so in time they will be allowed to enter that house not made in hands, eternal in the heavens.
“Scottish Rite Supplement; Manila Daily Bulletin” - MW Manuel Camus; 19 November 1938
“The Brethren. Masons In the Struggle for Philippine Independence” – MW Reynold S. Fajardo; 1998
“La Masoneria Española en Filipinas” – Susana Cuartero Escobes; 26 March 2009